By Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz
Six in 10 Filipinos believe that they have the freedom of speech, saying anything even if it is against the administration, based on a survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations (SWS).
Protesters from different militant groups march as they approach the protest area along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City, in time for the 4th State of the Nation Address of President Rodrigo Duterte, July 22, 2019. (Mark Balmores / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)
The nationwide survey conducted last June 22 to 26 among 1,200 respondents found that 59 percent of Filipinos agreed and 18 percent disagreed with the statement, “I can say anything I want, openly and without fear, even if it is against the administration.”
Meanwhile, 23 percent were undecided about the matter.
This translates to a net agreement score (percentage of those who agree minus the percentage of those who disagree) of +41, classified by SWS as “very strong.” It is 18 points above the “moderate” +23 in December 2018.
The statement was first tested by SWS in July 1985, during the Marcos regime, and found only 33 percent who agreed, while 29 percent disagreed, for a record-low net agreement of a “neutral” +3.
Net agreement rose to a “strong” +39 in May 1986, and reached its all-time high of “very strong” +63 in March 1987.
SWS said freedom of speech has been probed 40 times from 1985 to the present. Its net score averaged +33 during the administration of Corazon Aquino, +38 in the time of Fidel Ramos, +41 in the time of Joseph Estrada, +34 in the time of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and +32 in the time of Benigno S. Aquino III.
In the five times it was surveyed under the Duterte administration, it ranged from a moderate +23 to a strong +41.
SWS found that personal freedom of speech is stronger among those who see danger in publicly criticizing the administration.
The survey found that 51 percent of Filipinos agreed, 29 percent undecided, and 20 percent disagreed with the statement, “It is dangerous to print or broadcast anything critical of the administration, even if it is the truth,” for a strong net agreement of +31.
At the same time, it found that 67 percent agreed, 23 percent were undecided, and 10 percent disagreed with the statement, “Mass media in the Philippines have freedom of speech, of expression and of press,” for a very strong net agreement of +57.